Aug 21st, 2008 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Aug 21st, 2008 at 12:00 AM
Staying competitive in a professional sport is a task very few athletes can undertake successfully. Most NFL careers last a few years. An MLB player or NBA player with 10 years or more under their belt is considered a seasoned veteran. In pro bass fishing, longevity is measured in decades. Triton/Mercury pro Gary Klein is one of the top pros in the business with a stellar career that began in 1979.
His desire to be the best he can be, combined with a need for pure competition, has kept this Texas angler in the top tier of competitive anglers for over two decades.
Klein feels all anglers who desire to be successful need to have clarity of thought and total focus on competition.
"I think I compete for all the right reasons," he said. "I compete for the love of the sport. I'm addicted to the competition. My success comes from many things, but I feel I've developed into one of the most versatile anglers on tour.
"To be successful in this business you need longevity," he said. "You also need to be fully committed to the sport. I'm fully committed. Each tournament is a challenge and I know I can't win every event, but I'm so committed to always being in the game that I try and put myself into the best position possible with every tournament."
Many anglers don't put in the time it takes to reach the level of success he has achieved.
"A lot of tournament anglers don't put in enough time on the water," he said. "They essentially show up and think, 'It's just fishing.' I feel that if I'm going to spend 150 days per year fishing, I might as well do it in major events where I can win and earn large sums of money."
No, Klein is not anti-television. He's just opted to pass on television show opportunities to keep his focus on fishing.
"I've had opportunities to have a television show," he said. "I'll make appearances, but I won't be the host of a show. The commitment to that takes away from my performance in tournaments.
"I've seen too many of my friends go down that road and just not have good results in tournaments," he said. "Some of the biggest names in the sport just struggle because of the time commitment their shows have.
"When I'm competing, my mind needs to be free," he said. "No outside thoughts or worries; just pure focus on the tournament."
So many pro anglers work in packs to help economize their time on the water. These packs work together to share information and in some cases split winnings. Klein opts for the loner approach.
"I'll tell you, I prefer to work by myself," he said. "I practice alone and find it to be more productive. We all look at things differently and each angler fishes slightly differently than the other. If I ended up sharing information, I may end up overlooking something.
"I just don't fish well talking to a group of anglers every night," he said. "I think most of those who work groups tend to not have confidence in their own abilities. They'll focus too much on what other people are saying."
He also doesn't fish another angler's water.
"A few years ago, a local showed me a backwater area on the Red River," he said. "It was a good spot and we caught a couple of 4-pounders. Well, during a BASS Open event there, I didn't fish that spot.
"That same local asked me if I fished it," he said. "I told him no. He was surprised. I said I knew he was entered in the event and that I'd never fish his water."
Novelty No More
When he first started, Klein was a rarity among pro anglers. He was a 20-year old fishing against veterans in their mid-thirties and older. Today, youngsters on tour are no longer an oddity, and he is still going strong.
"I've had some terrific times in fishing, from the time I started pro tournaments in 1979 to now, he said. "Over the last ten years or so, I've been able to put away most of my money so now I don't have to depend on anybody to fish. I've basically bought my freedom.
"From the days of being a novelty as a 20 year old on the BASS tour to now, I've been very fortunate," he said. "I've had some terrific sponsor support from some companies for over 20 years.
"If I could offer advice to any angler thinking about making a career out of this business, I'd tell them they truly need to learn who they are," he said. "Work on becoming a better angler, work hard, fish smart and practice."